One of the reasons why I chose to study abroad was to work with non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Dominican Republic. I have been blessed to intern with an internationally recognized organization called El Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico Haitiano (MUDHA), which means the Movement of Dominican-Haitian woman. Although MUDHA mainly advocates for woman that are Haitian or Dominican of Haitian descent, the organization does not seclude the families of these woman. In fact, MUDHA advocates for any Haitian or Dominican of Haitian descent. MUDHA centers their advocacy in four fundamental areas affecting Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent, which includes: Health, Human Rights, Regularization, and Education. Some projects MUDHA has done in the past includes: building an orphanage in Haiti, building new homes for Haitians/Dominican-Haitians living in these marginalized communities called bateys, putting on theater shows, and many more. Currently they are working alongside a team of lawyers to help Haitians/Haitian-Dominicans living in bateys become Dominican citizens. The regularization plan to deport any immigrant population without residency will be enacted by April of next year. Until then, MUDHA is visiting these communities and informing them on the proper steps needed to become citizens of the Dominican Republic.
I am grateful to be an intern for this organization because of their dedication to help the marginalized communities. A couple of days ago, I personally had a chance to see them in action when we visited a batey. So far I’ve been to two bateys, one called Bienvenidos and the other KM 43. In both batey the leaders of MUDHA held an information session, giving the community proper steps to take in order to apply for residency. In Bienvenido Batey I met a woman who shared her concern about the new regularization plan and worried that she would not become a citizen because she did not have her birth certificate. The birth certificate is essential or primary step to apply for residency. Anyone without a birth certificate makes it difficult for them to apply for residency. This woman expressed her concern for her children, who also did not have a birth certificate. Hearing the desperation for help in her voice made me empathize with her. There wasn’t much I could do for her but listen to her story.
After we left the batey, I felt very grateful just to have a birth certificate. I felt very grateful to have an identity and to be a citizen of the United States. When April of next year arrives, many members of these communities will be deported – unless they apply for residency. However some people do not have any form of identification to prove that they were born in the Dominican Republic. As a consequence they will be deported to Haiti – a country they’ve only heard about and truly is not their home.